Jan. 9, 2010
Alabama Series: UA leads 15-11; In Tuscaloosa: UA leads 8-4; In Columbia: SC leads 7-5; At Neutral Site: UA leads 2-0
Radio: WISW 1320 AM and GamecocksOnline.com (Brad Muller and Marcy Girton)
South Carolina Notables
- This is the program’s 36th season as a varsity sport.
- Under Dawn Staley, the Gamecocks are 6-5 in games decided by five points or less.
- In SEC games, the Gamecocks are shooting a league-best 80.8 percent from the free throw line. South Carolina is third in rebounding margin, edging its SEC opponents by 5.0 boards per game.
- South Carolina ranks among the nation’s elite in the most recent strength of schedule standings. With 10 games against teams currently among the nation’s top 25 on the docket, the Gamecocks have the third-toughest schedule in the nation and the strongest in the SEC.
- The Gamecocks are 161-160 (.502) all-time in January, including a 94-70 (.573) mark at home.
A South Carolina Win Would…
- Be the Gamecocks’ second-straight over Alabama and their fifth in the last six meetings.
- Be the Gamecocks’ first SEC victory since they defeated Alabama 68-57 on Feb. 15, 2009, in Columbia.
- Be the Gamecocks’ first SEC road win since a 76-67 win at Ole Miss on 1/22/09.
- Bring the program within two wins of 600 in school history.
Last Time Out…
South Carolina stormed out of the gate on both sides of the ball but could not hold back Tennessee in a 62-79 loss to the Lady Vols in Knoxville. The Gamecocks led by as many as six points early in the game before a 16-1 spurt gave Tennessee a double-digit lead just more than halfway through the first half. South Carolina cut its deficit to seven with inside-outside play before Angie Bjorklund and Shekinna Sricklen shot the game out of reach. Valerie Nainima led three Gamecocks in double figures with 16 points, while Charenee Stephens led all players with 10 rebounds.
The Alabama Series
The Crimson Tide leads the series 15-11 but the Gamecocks have won eight of the last 11 meetings, including last season’s 68-57 victory at Colonial Life Arena (Feb. 15). South Carolina is 4-8 all-time in Tuscaloosa, winning just once in the last four meetings there – a 67-48 decision on Jan. 22, 2006. The Gamecocks lost the last matchup on Alabama’s homecourt 65-54 on Jan. 10, 2008.
Strength of Schedule
Staley stuck to her philosophy of challenging her teams in November and December as a building block for success in January and beyond. The Gamecocks face 22 games against teams that participated in the 2009 postseason, including seven non-conference outings. South Carolina play 11 games against SEC teams that played in the 2009 NCAA Tournament. As a result of those decisions by Staley, the Gamecocks’ schedule is currently ranked as the third-toughest in the nation (as of Jan. 8). Only Stanford and Rutgers are facing a more strident challenge than South Carolina this season.
South Carolina’s RPI is among the highest in the SEC at 39 (as of Jan. 8). Ahead of the Gamecocks are Tennessee (3), Georgia (7) and LSU (16). Vanderbilt (45), Kentucky (47) and Auburn (55) are just behind South Carolina, and Mississippi State (70) rounds out the list of league schools with an RPI inside the top 100.
South Carolina is 161-160 all-time in the month of January, helped by a 94-70 (.573) record in home games in the first month of the year. The Gamecocks’ best January was a 10-1 mark in the 1979-80 season. Since joining the SEC for the 1991-92 season, South Carolina is 62-95 in the first calendar month. This season, the Gamecocks are 0-2 in January.
After winning the battle of the boards just once in its first five games, South Carolina has out-rebounded its opponent in eight of its last nine outings. Among those eight games are an 11-rebound edge over No. 11/12 LSU, which had been out-rebounding opponents by 9.4 boards per game, a 20-rebound advantage over Brown and a two-rebound edge over North Carolina, which had been out-rebounding its opponents by 9.9 boards per game. The Gamecocks are 5-3 in those eight games, during which they pulled down 42.4 rebounds per contest compared to 34.2 by their opponents.
Our Pal Val
South Carolina guard Valerie Nainima has been the Gamecocks’ leading scorer nine times this season, during which the team has a 5-4 record. Nainima has reached the 20-point plateau four times in the last nine games, leading the Gamecocks to two wins in those efforts. The lone losses were to No. 9/10 North Carolina, against which Nainima netted 26 points, and against Boston University, during which she netted 29 points. Nainima has led the team in scoring in each of the first to SEC games of the season, netting 13 points against No. 11/12 LSU and 16 at No. 4/4 Tennessee. She is shooting 40.7 percent from the field in league play, including 40.0 percent from 3-point range.
The month of December was marked by solid efforts from freshman center Kelsey Bone. Leading the team in rebounding in all four games, she averaged 10.3 boards during the stretch while pouring in 15.3 points per contest. Her 27 points against No. 9/10 North Carolina led all scorers, and six of her 10 rebounds against the Tar Heels came on the offensive end. Her 15 rebounds against Boston U tied the program’s freshman record (Schonna Bonner vs. Southern Miss, 3/7/87).
Sophomore Charenee Stephens is the Gamecocks’ second-leading rebounder with 7.8 per game, a number that would rank her among the SEC’s top 10 if she had not missed more than 25 percent of South Carolina’s games so far this season. In SEC games only, Stephens ranks ninth in the conference with 7.5 boards per outing. She has led South Carolina in rebounding five times this season, and the Gamecocks are 3-2 in those outings. Averaging 9.2 points this season, Stephens is scoring nearly double her average from last season. Her career-high 20 points led the Gamecocks to victory over then-No. 23/24 San Diego State at the Paradise Jam. She posted her first career double-double against Penn State with 17 points and 11 rebounds after opening the season by tying her career high with 12 rebounds at Charlotte. Stephens has grabbed six or more rebounds in seven of the 10 games she has played this season.
Jewel of the Nile
Junior Jewel May is one of just two Gamecocks who have started all 14 games this season. She has been especially solid since SEC play began two games again. May pulled down five rebounds in each of the first two games with half of her total of 10 boards coming on the offensive end.